Yesterday was a very exciting day for everyone on the OneNote team. We have been designing, developing and testing the OneNote 2010 release for quite some time now. We’ve been using it ourselves every day for well over a year. It has already dramatically changed the way we and many other teams and individuals at Microsoft work. And with the availability of the Office 2010 Technical Preview today to selected participants, we’re excited to finally be able to share more details with you.
In this post I’ll give a 30,000 foot overview of the major investments for OneNote 2010, and then in subsequent posts we’ll go into more detail on the feature areas with screenshots and more.
OneNote 2010 Investments Overview
1. Universal Access
We repeatedly hear that access to your notes and the ability to take them anywhere is very important, whether you’re at work, home or on the go. OneNote 2007 already provides offline availability and seamless sync, and a basic OneNote application for Windows Mobile. But we knew that was just the beginning. With OneNote 2010 we’ve added:
- Sync to Cloud (Windows Live): Your notebooks sync and are available anywhere from any machine. Of course this is in addition to all the existing ways you can sync notebooks (file shares, SharePoint, USB drives etc.)
- OneNote Web App: You can access and edit your entire notebook from a browser. Even on a machine that doesn’t have OneNote installed.
- OneNote Mobile: A more complete OneNote version for Windows Mobile phones. Syncs whole notebooks. Syncs directly to the cloud. No need to tether your device. Richer editing support.
Note: The above are not yet available in the Tech Preview unfortunately. We’re still finishing some integration work for sync to Windows Live.
2. Sharing and Collaboration
With OneNote 2007 we pioneered simultaneous multi-user editing of notebooks. OneNote 2007 auto-magically merges the edits, even simultaneous edits on the same page. This is valuable for single users (you can edit on desktop and laptop and not have one machine lock the file), but it’s even more valuable for teams sharing a notebook for plans, ideas, meetings and so on. Or perhaps a family notebook shared with your significant other. We’ve heard lots of positive feedback about this, and it has completely transformed the way many teams work and collaborate. We’ve also heard about many families that use it for sharing home renovation plans, gardening info, recipes, wedding planning and so on.
In OneNote 2010 we’ve added a number of features to make the experience of sharing with others more productive and intuitive. These include:
- What’s new (aka Unread) highlighting: New content that someone else added or changed since you last looked at a page is highlighted so you can see what’s new on that page. Also, the notebook name, section tabs and page tabs are shown in bold so you can quickly navigate to pages with new content.
- Author indicator: Content written by anyone other than you has a small color coded bar to the right with their initials. At a glance you can tell who wrote something.
- Versioning: Quickly show past versions of any given page, who wrote it and when, with changes relative to previous versions highlighted.
- Fast sync on same page: When multiple people are working on the same page we speed up the sync of that page so you can see other peoples edits in near real time.
- We also added capabilities to be able to quickly search for recently added content (last day, week, month etc.) or get an overview of what given people changed on what days.
- Merge two sections: This feature is more of a detail but it fits here. Sometimes people share notebooks using Live Mesh or Dropbox or other file sharing solutions. And you can end up with two forked copies of a section if you happened to make changes on two machines at once (you can read earlier posts for context, but OneNote cannot auto-magically merge simultaneous edits when working on these systems that copy files around underneath OneNote). So we’ve added the ability to manually merge any two sections if you ever get into this situation. Just tell OneNote which two sections you want merged and OneNote will take care of it.
3. Better ways to Organize and Find your Notes
Capturing, organizing and finding your information has always been at the heart of what OneNote does. We’ve made several enhancements in this core area. Some of these will be more understandable once we have detailed blog posts with screenshots.
- Section and page tab improvements: making notebook navigation work better with a larger number of sections and pages, easier to create new sections, better page tab hierarchy visualization, collapse sub page groups, just drag left and right to create sub pages and organize your pages, insert new pages directly anywhere in your page tabs.
- Fast “word wheel” search for navigation: the goal of this is to make search a super fast way to get to your regularly used notes. Historically search has been more of a “last resort” feature when you couldn’t find something. We’ve completely revamped this experience so it is now designed to make it the fastest way to get to any page including pages you visit regularly like your To Do list.
- Wiki linking: you can easily create a link to an existing page or to a new page for a topic. You can do this by just typing the Wiki link syntax (e.g. just type [[The Page Title I Want]] ), or use our new page search experience from within the link dialog. This enables you to easily create Wiki like notebooks with lots of cross links across pages.
- Quick filing: there are many ways to send content to OneNote (Print to OneNote, send mails from Outlook, send pages from Internet Explorer and so on). Our new Quick Filing experience pops up to let you pick where in your notebook you want to send it. It remembers the last places you sent things. You can search in Quick Filing to find a specific section or page if you want it somewhere else.
4. Research and taking notes linked to documents, web pages
OneNote is often used as a companion while researching topics and collecting information (e.g. a market analysis study, a class paper, a home renovation, a car purchase and so on). This often involves looking at web pages or documents and taking notes. You could also be reviewing a document or class lecture slides and taking notes as you’re looking through them. We’ve enhanced a number of things to make this experience better.
- Docked OneNote: you can dock OneNote to the side of your screen. It docks alongside other windows (e.g. browser, Word, PowerPoint). OneNote minimizes UI and just shows the notes page alongside your document/browser.
- Linked Note Taking: while in this mode, OneNote automatically links the notes you take to what you’re looking at – the web page URL, the selection point in Word, the current slide in PowerPoint. Later in OneNote you can hover on that link and you’ll see a thumbnail preview of the original document, you can click on it and it will open and take you back to what you were looking at when you wrote the note.
- Auto text wrapping: this goes well with Docked OneNote but is useful in other cases too. OneNote now wraps text outlines to fit the windows size if there is only one outline on the page. This makes it easy to see all your notes even when OneNote is docked to a relatively narrow window on the side.
- IRM protected printouts: this is mainly for enterprise and training scenarios. The idea is that companies can distribute things like product manuals or class notes in OneNote that are protected intellectual property. The recipient can view these in OneNote and take their own personal notes on top of these materials and beside them. If for some reason the materials were viewed by an unauthorized person they would not see any of the protected material.
- 64 bit print driver: Yes, OneNote 2010 has a new native print driver that fully supports 64 bit. It’s based on the XPS technology from Windows. It also has other virtues like better rendering quality when scaled.
5. Editing improvements
There are a number of basic editing improvements in OneNote. Below are some more prominent ones.
- Basic styles: OneNote 2010 adds very basic styles like Heading 1,2,3. This does not have the power of Words styling features. OneNote is not designed for that level of document formatting. But it does give you a way to quickly have your meeting notes have a little structure.
- Bullets improvements: this is a simple one but oft requested. First level bullets now indent from previous text.
- Equations: OneNote 2010 now supports the ability to add math equations. Great for students or people who need to input math into their notebooks. OneNote will also support the ability to recognize hand written math equations and convert them when running on Windows 7.
- Mini-Translation tooltips: OneNote can now show you a tooltip with a translation into your native language when your mouse hovers over a foreign language word. Great for language students, or if you’re working in a bi-lingual situation and need help understanding a word in a shared notebook or that you clipped from the web. This is thanks to integration of work from our GXP team mentioned in their blog.
6. Touch support
With the rapidly increasing availability of touch enabled PCs and the enhanced touch experience in Windows 7, this was a natural thing for OneNote to support.
- Finger panning and auto-switch: you can use your finger to scroll and pan around any page in OneNote. OneNote auto switches between pen, pan, and selection depending on your input device. So for example you can pan around a drawing with your left finger and draw with a tablet pen in your right hand. This makes for a very natural two handed interaction model.
- Pinch zoom: we enabled pinch zooming within OneNote centered on the fingers.
- Navigation controls improved for touch: we’ve made some small optimizations to make the UI easier to use with touch.
7. Fluent UI
OneNote now adopts the Fluent UI along with the other Office applications.
- Ribbon: OneNote now has the Ribbon. We’ve designed this to optimize for the key OneNote scenarios and make them easier to use. This is also what enables us to more easily add features like math equation editing (the common controls for that use the Ribbon), and potential future features.
- Office Backstage: This is new for Office 2010. OneNote will be taking advantage of it to make tasks like creating new notebooks, and new shared notebooks on the web easier (we’re still doing work on this).
We’ll write more in future posts to explain each of these areas in more detail. We hope you enjoy OneNote 2010!
Group Program Manager, OneNote